Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Writing Skill Diminishes In Youth

Here’s the rundown of my life so far in college, a place I never thought to be again, and perhaps somewhere I shouldn’t be, not a t my age. I say to people that I am old and though thirty-six isn’t young, I don’t actually feel old beyond a few aches that I never noticed before. Then I arrived at college a few weeks ago and bam! Pow! Right in the kisser with the age-punch I never saw coming.

Those kids are young, but it isn’t in the way they look, which is obvious, but in the way they think. They’ve come from a different education system than the one I grew up in and I guess... it irritates me. A grumpy (old) man am I? Maybe I am, maybe I’m just out of touch, or maybe I forget that once I was nineteen and thought I knew everything.

Of course, that’s part of the problem, knowing everything. In comparison to the kids in my class, I will claim an advantage now in terms of knowledge and I’ll claim that same advantage for my nineteen year old self, too. It goes beyond the spelling errors (adgenda? When the fuck did they put that second ‘d’ in there?), or not knowing how to write in cursive (I’m sorry to Mrs. Morang, my sixth grade teacher, who struggled so hard to teach me legible cursive, since apparently that sort of thing doesn’t matter anymore). Turning in papers for class that are handwritten instead of typed is a thing now, I guess (it is 2012, with fucking computers practically inserted in our asses, right?), but even that doesn’t burn me the most or make me feel ancient.

The kids in my classes don’t know how to fucking write!

I mean, wtf, omg, lol- these are considered higher forms of communication. When my dog Ollie stands on his back legs to put his front paws on the counter (for any possible crumblies that might be there), and lets out a series of farts, those farts communicate with more intelligence than many of my classmates.

Sentence structure, grammar, formulation of paragraphs and the ability to make a complex argument using actual, mother-fucking words are... no big deal. If a thought can’t be written in a text or expressed in the space of a single tweet, then, well I guess it isn’t that important. Right?

I could be overreacting, I suppose, just a stodgy old curmudgeon. I should reserve judgement until the end of the semester, give the kids a chance. I mean, why should I be angry, anyway? Communication, intelligent debate, reason, these are all hallmarks of the world in which we live. We couldn’t use more articulate discussion in the world. Conversation online isn’t overheated or partisan.

Who needs the ability to think, write and express a thought critically when we have the power of one-line zingers learned by the time we all were ten? No further advancement of writing skill required today, I guess.

So says the old guy in the back row.


Julia Rachel Barrett said...

ICAM, old man.

MT Nickerson said...

I had to look that up, Julia. I am an old man. :)

Clary said...

This is so true.

MT Nickerson said...

Thank you, Clary. I need a little validation after living in la-la land of what seems to be the new education system.

Clary said...

You welcome. I know exactly what you mean.

Scott Bury said...

I taught in community colleges for nearly 20 years, and I saw a real diminishment in high-school grads' English abilities, the colleges' standards and students' attitudes over that time. I was not the grumpy old man in the back, but in every class there was at least one, and he was always my favourite student.

Students today feel entitled to a good grade; they feel insulted when I point out their easy errors, and really put out when I demand a marketing research report that is written to a professional standard.

The real problem is that the college doesn't back up the professor — all a student has to do is complain to the dean, and the dean forces the professor to bump up the grade.

It's as if kids never get out of elementary school.

MT Nickerson said...

Scott, thanks for giving respect to us old guys in the back. It's lonely and getting lonelier in college classrooms. One class I am taking this semester doesn't have a grade given by the professor. Instead, the students meet with the professor and we get to pick the grade we 'deserve'.

If i'm to act as student and professor, shouldn't I get a reduced rate on my bill? I think I'll 'deserve' an A this semester, if for nothing else, then for being so discouraged- a pain and suffering kind of compensation situation.